We have been going to Thailand’s Koh Phangan Island for over 20 years. We have been to over 50 countries in the world, and Thailand remains our all-time favourite. Along with Australia and New Zealand, we consider it one of our homes. This post is about what to do in Koh Phangan and the reasons to go to Koh Phangan now.
Many travellers don’t realise that things change, places change, and even you change. And 20 years later, you will no longer be that good-looking skinny backpacker that can dance on tables after having knocked back 10 pints of beer (without falling).
Twenty years later, island paradises don’t stay the same. They too mature, develop, age and grow.
It is a given that in this age of Instagram, many island paradises you love and have all to yourself are getting invaded by the masses. It’s only a matter of time! And the fact that every day hundreds of travellers are Instagramming photos of how amazing Koh Phangan Island happens to be is proof of that.
Thailand’s Koh Phangan Island
We have seen the neighbouring island Koh Samui grow from a few seaside villages to a city! Furthermore, this all happened before the words ‘social media’ existed.
We have seen Koh Phangan grow too. Twenty years ago, there was just a dirt track around the island. It connected the handful of tiny villages and the small port town of Thong Sala with Haad Rin. Many travellers never left Haad Rin, the home of the world-famous Full Moon Party.
There are now beautiful, safe, brand-new roads around the island, and at the moment, there is hardly any traffic except for motorbikes and a few cars. However, this is changing as we have seen more and more cars coming to the island. The more demand means there will be more cars. The families with children that are now visiting here are finding it more convenient to rent a car.
So it is still an island paradise for now. And we love it so much that we visit every year! But times are changing, and soon the cheap bungalows on the beach will make way to concrete and high-rise buildings. So without further discussions on the population explosion and how Instagram is ruining tourism worldwide, here is the list of 8 reasons to go to Thailand’s Koh Phangan Island now.
Do this ASAP!
Before yet another island becomes an over-touristed Phuket, Ibiza or Positano!
Why you must go to Thailand’s Koh Phangan Island now!
1. Swim, Snorkel or Dive
Koh Phangan has an estimated 45 kilometres of coastline with over twenty beautiful beaches. There is a piece of paradise for everyone. Some beaches you can still find you are the only one on the beach.
The favourite pastime of the masses of grabbing a towel and roasting away in the sun on the golden sands of the beach will be yours. On some beaches, you can find shady trees to lie under.
The water in Koh Phangan is an average of 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 f) most of the year-round, as is the air temperature. The water is crystal clear. (Except sometimes during the monsoon.)
One of our favourite things to do is snorkelling off the shore. You can see many fish and sea life.
Plus, there are many dive schools around the island. They take you to the best spots to see sea life, coral, and even sharks and whales. There is a growing number of choices from day trips to getting your full divers certificate at less cost and with fewer people than other places around the world.
2, Koh Phangan Island Boat Tours
If you are not into diving, there are a couple of boats that offer day trips around the island. It’s a fun day out with beautiful island views. The bigger boats depart from Haad Rin, and they will take you to the best places on the island for snorkelling. There is an opportunity to see a plethora of multicoloured fish and beautiful corals.
Additionally, if you love being underwater, you must take a trip to the neighbouring island Koh Tao. It is a diving mecca, and the waters are home to a plethora of sea life. Also, you have the opportunity to see sharks and turtles while snorkelling! We Love it.
Besides our Koh Phangan top 10 things to do, here are our Top 10 things to do in Koh Tao – the Tropical Island Paradise in Thailand. Guaranteed to turn your holiday into a trip of a lifetime!
Alternatively, you can hire longtail boats to take you to a nearby beach or for your own private tour. It is a fun adventure and sometimes the only transport to secluded bays that have no road access. More roads are being built on the island everywhere that you want to go, so enjoy the quiet beaches while you can.
Don’t Miss Bottle Beach.
Condé Nast has named Bottle Beach one of the best beaches in Thailand in their article “The 10 best islands in Thailand”. We agree it is one of the best beaches in Koh Phangan.
With its soft white sands, clear waters and palm trees nestled in the mountains, it’s no doubt a perfect setting to realise your castaway dreams. Currently, there is no road access to this remote beach. Longtail boats leave all day from the village of Chaloklum, and it takes under twenty minutes to get there. Spend a few hours relaxing, swimming, dining, and realising your castaway dreams. Due to social media, it is getting more popular all the time, and some people claim it is overly touristy and crowded. So it’s best to go in the mornings for fewer crowds.
3. Mountain Hikes & Beach Walks
With almost half the island of Koh Phangan being protected areas and a national park, there are mountains, waterfalls, dense jungle, and rainforests. There are various grades of tracks to panoramic views from high points through old-growth forests to waterfalls and rock pools. If it’s been raining, these waterfalls are a delightful, clean freshwater swim.
If you love beach walks, there are many bays with exquisite views. It’s best to go in the morning before any crowds or the heat sets in. Alternatively, if you go in the evenings, you can follow a beautiful sunset walk with dinner and cocktails by the sea.
We also love walking around the small town of Thong Sala, especially on Saturdays for the lively Walking Street Market. In the afternoon, the street gets closed to traffic, and there are many food and clothes stalls. Make sure to look around at the buildings. Some of the oldest houses on the island are still standing. These old wooden shacks are from a by-gone era in Thailand.
4. Motorbike Riding or a Tour around Koh Phangan Island.
If you can ride a scooter, it is a great day out independently riding around the island, seeing the different beaches, bays, and villages. In fact, it’s one of our favourite pastimes.
Each day, we pick a different route to take. And with many new roads being built all over the island, we end up somewhere new, seeing new things we have never seen before. It is the ultimate in slow travel, cruising through the old-growth jungle, passing traditional Thai villages, and visiting temples all over the island.
You can ride to different beaches for lunch or a swim, go to the night market in the town of Thong Sala, and take day trips to places all around the island. The joy of motorbike riding on roads with no traffic will stay in your memories for a lifetime.
Alternatively, there are many island tours. You can visit temples, jungles, waterfalls, and remote beaches all in one day.
Do not learn to ride a motorbike in Koh Phangan.
The road conditions are poor. There is sand, cracks & potholes, and the driving rules are not followed. We often hear of people, both Thai and foreigners, getting killed on the roads here. Please do not rent a motorbike unless you are an experienced rider. And if you do, please drive slowly, wear a helmet & do not drink drive. Do not be a statistic!
Temples are an essential part of Thai culture and history. They play a significant role in Thai life. There are over 20 temples you can visit on the island of Koh Phangan. They are all varied, ranging from Thai to Chinese.
Wat Phu Khao Noi, which is the oldest one, offers meditation.
Wat Pho is one of our favourites. It has a traditional Thai steam room and offers Thai massage too.
At the temples, you will find beautiful ornate architecture, statues, sculptures, and gardens. It is a place where you can find peace and solitude no matter what faith you follow.
We love visiting temples wherever we go, mostly because they are so beautiful to look at. So much love and care have gone into building temples, and they are a place of peace and love.
They also often have festivals at the temples. You will find delicious street food stalls, markets, traditional dance, Thai music bands, and a lively happy atmosphere. If you are fortunate to find a festival on, do not miss it.
Note: Please show respect to Thai people. Cover up your shoulders before you enter a temple and take off your hat and shoes. Also, it is respectful and considered good luck to bring flowers or leave a donation for upkeep of the temples and grounds.
6. Massage, Spas, Steam Rooms and Yoga
Over the last 20 years of coming to Thailand, we have had hundreds of massages. We have a great time having small talk with the masseurs and see it as a chance to learn some Thai.
Thai massage combines acupressure, remedial and deep tissue massage as well as yoga stretching. A good massage will release serotonin in your body and you will find you are walking blissfully. But you will also feel like you have had a good workout.
There are hundreds of massage parlours all over the island. They also offer other massage styles. Foot massage, back massage, and face massage are popular. Also, there are a few larger spas around the island where you can also get other treatments like manicures, pedicures, and facials. Usually, a day of treatments will cost you just a small percentage of what you would pay at home.
Some massage parlours also offer steam rooms. If you love steam rooms, you will be able to spend many happy days visiting various steam rooms around the island. Some have restaurants and accommodation. Many new steam rooms are opening up around the island, so do your research and visit those that sound the best for you.
Our favourite steam room is the traditional sauna at Wat Pho Temple. We have been going there for years. Many Thais and expats still go there. While it is a place for reflection, it is also a place where you can meet interesting people and have a quiet chat about life. There is also Thai massage offered.
Yoga on Koh Phangan
The West Coast of Koh Phangan Island has grown into a Yoga Mecca. More and more yoga schools are opening and more facilities to serve the travellers coming here.
The larger yoga centres offer drop-in classes, yoga intensives, yoga teacher training, detox programs, meditation, and healing retreats. Additionally, some have restaurants and accommodations, as well as spa services. Also, some have cafes serving wholesome food and vegetarian/vegan meals.
There are many yoga centres to choose from.
It depends on what experience you are after.
Here are some of the larger yoga centres on Koh Phangan Island that offer multiple services and facilities.
Orion Healing – Featuring detox, spa treatments, accommodation, and a vegan cafe.
Pure Flow Yoga – With its stunning jungle location, it also offers retreats & yoga teacher training.
Ananda Yoga & Detox Centre – They have a beautiful resort, and their spa services have been featured in many media worldwide.
The Sanctuary – This place is incredible. It is a perfect getaway.
7. Dining Out, Sunset Drinks and Parties
While we typically get a small snack for lunch from one of the many food stalls grilling meats, we love going out for dinner and eating Thai Food. We love Thai food and are delighted with a tasty bowl of noodles or curry.
Often we frequent the Thong Sala Night Market and get a few plates of various foods to try. It’s always fresh, and you can often see it getting cooked in front of you.
If you feel like something different from Thai food, there are many available international cuisines from all around the world. International chefs have come to Koh Phangan Island and have set up excellent restaurants.
Mostly, we love dining out at the many restaurants on the water’s edge while having sunset drinks. For us, Koh Phangan sunset drinks are an institution. We make sure we go out most nights for drinks by the sea to watch the sunset. It’s one of our favourite things to do. And the sunsets on Koh Phangan Island have to be seen to be believed. No Filter is needed!
And when you have eaten and drank to your heart’s content, there are the parties. Koh Phangan has long been known as the party mecca of Asia. There is the Full Moon Party for the masses. And then there are jungle parties like Jungle Experience, Waterfall Party, Half Moon Festival, and Blackmoon Culture. The music is loud, the vibe is joyful, and the dancing goes all night.
8. Do Nothing except lie in a hammock by the sea
Our number one reason for coming to Thailand is to chill and practice Dolce Far Niente. We became a convert of this discipline after reading the travel book Eat, Pray, Love. Dolce Far Niente is ‘the sweet fine art of doing nothing’. And what better place than on a tropical island in Thailand. The weather and the sea are warm. We have hammocks on our balcony just a few metres from the water. There are palm trees, mountain backdrops, and the azure blue sea to stare into. There is food to eat, books to read, and musings to be had, and then there are the sunsets.
The Koh Phangan sunsets are phenomenal displays of colour setting into the sea. Even if you don’t have a hammock by the sea, make sure you make time to see the daily sunset and sunrise, if you can wake up early.
Additionally, even if you don’t have a balcony by the sea, there are many wonderful places to stay in Koh Phangan. The standard is high, and the costs are very low compared to Europe or Western countries. Resorts all over Koh Phangan offer 5-star facilities including beachfront dining and hammocks by the sea.
Actually, you can find many of these things on many of the astonishing islands in Thailand. With Koh Phangan being so close to Koh Samui and Koh Tao, you can go island hopping and have even more fun and adventures.
There you go, 8 phenomenal reasons you must go to Koh Phangan now!
We are here every year! Perhaps we will see you?
Editor’s Note on Sustainability:
Please consider the long-term effects if you rent a car.
You will be contributing to the change and ultimate demise of this tropical island paradise.
We have seen cars come to Koh Samui in the last 20 years and seen it change into a congested, traffic-filled city! Currently, there are not many cars in Koh Phangan, but we are seeing the growth, and we feel that it is contributing to changing the lazy island feeling.